My question is prompted by my own thoughts, this morning, as to my own failure, in my own lifetime, to fully respond - zealously, faithfully and responsibly - to the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God, and to the exhortations and provisions of the New Testament scriptures.

I have heard that in the beginnings of the movement called 'The Plymouth Brethren' that J N Darby described the tears that fell on to the floor in prayer meetings from those who were heart-broken not just at the state of Christendom generally, but penitent on their own behalf as to their own failure.

I have never rejected or renounced the faith but I am constantly conscious of past failures and a previously imperfect walk.

And I would gladly meet (in the UK) with others who felt likewise.

Do any groups or denominations feel the same ?

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    Does any church which prays a prayer of confession count? What about churches that have repented after the sex abuse scandals came to light? Or are you after something more specific?
    – curiousdannii
    Commented Jul 2, 2021 at 7:20
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    The Primary Failure: A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. 35 By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” (John 13:34–35, ESV)
    – Perry Webb
    Commented Jul 2, 2021 at 9:28
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    I cannot think of a denominational exhortation to repentance and faith. It is my observation that revival movements within Christian denominations come about through revival in the spirits of individuals. When we have done ALL that we are commanded to do (who can claim this?) we should say, "I am but an unworthy servant." The Lord knows both who and what He has redeemed: He knows that we are dust. Pressing on like in a marriage...leave the past and cleave unto the bridegroom. Jesus never told us to get into a denomination's yoke. Commented Jul 2, 2021 at 11:33
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    As someone who left a particular branch of Plymouth Brethren partly due to the current resistance against humble introspection, I appreciate this question. Commented Jul 2, 2021 at 17:54
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    @MikeBorden I am not imagining a new, denominational structure. I am seeing one Ministry, sent of Jesus Christ, by which is raised up one Church. As it was in the beginning of the gospel. As we see in the Acts of the Apostles. As we see of Paul, who went to a city and there was one body, gathered in unity subject to the apostolic word. And to that - single - body he went and preached. And they received his word, as from Christ himself.
    – Nigel J
    Commented Jul 3, 2021 at 13:19

3 Answers 3


Do any denominations accept their own part in the failure, generally, of Christendom, to rise to the reality of what Christianity ought to be?

I believe the Catholic Church under the leadership of Pope St. John Paul II has done this on several occasions.

Many Catholics over the centuries have done horrible crimes in the name of religion. Pope John Paul II had enough integrity to apologize for the failure on part of those Catholics responsible.

Even the Great Jubilee of the year 2000 included a day of Prayer for Forgiveness of the Sins of the Church on March 12, 2000.

List of apologies made by Pope John Paul II

Pope John Paul II made many apologies. During his long reign as Pope, he apologized to Jews, women, people convicted by the Inquisition, Muslims killed by the Crusaders and almost everyone who had suffered at the hands of the Catholic Church over the years. Even before he became the Pope, he was a prominent editor and supporter of initiatives like the Letter of Reconciliation of the Polish Bishops to the German Bishops from 1965. As Pope, he officially made public apologies for over 100 of these wrongdoings, including:

  • Christians involved in the African slave trade (14 August 1985)

  • The Church's role in burnings at the stake and the religious wars that followed the Protestant Reformation (May 1995, in the Czech Republic).

  • In a June 1995, "Letter to Women", John Paul said,

"Women's dignity has often been unacknowledged and their prerogatives misrepresented; they have often been relegated to the margins of society and even reduced to servitude...Certainly it is no easy task to assign the blame for this, considering the many kinds of cultural conditioning which down the centuries have shaped ways of thinking and acting. And if objective blame, especially in particular historical contexts, has belonged to not just a few members of the Church, for this I am truly sorry."

  • The inactivity and silence of many Catholics during the Holocaust (16 March 1998). The Commission for Religious Relations with the Jews issued a statement:

We cannot know how many Christians in countries occupied or ruled by the Nazi powers or their allies were horrified at the disappearance of their Jewish neighbours and yet were not strong enough to raise their voices in protest. For Christians, this heavy burden of conscience of their brothers and sisters during the Second World War must be a call to penitence.

  • Cardinal Miloslav Vlk of Prague was instrumental in crafting an apology by John Paul II for the "cruel death" of the famed medieval Czech reformer Jan Hus in 1415. In his 18 December 1999 speech in Prague, John Paul expressed "deep sorrow" for Hus' death and praised his "moral courage."

  • For the Crusaders' Sack of Constantinople in 1204. To the Patriarch of Constantinople he said "Some memories are especially painful, and some events of the distant past have left deep wounds in the minds and hearts of people to this day. I am thinking of the disastrous sack of the imperial city of Constantinople, which was for so long the bastion of Christianity in the East. It is tragic that the assailants, who had set out to secure free access for Christians to the Holy Land, turned against their own brothers in the faith. The fact that they were Latin Christians fills Catholics with deep regret. How can we fail to see here the mysterium iniquitatis at work in the human heart?".

  • On 20 November 2001, from a laptop in the Vatican, Pope John Paul II sent his first e-mail apologizing for the Catholic sex abuse cases, the Church-backed "Stolen Generations" of Aboriginal children in Australia, and to China for the behavior of Catholic missionaries in colonial times.

An excuse is worse and more terrible than a lie, for an excuse is a lie guarded. — Pope John Paul II

In December 1999, at the request of Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger, then Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith who would later become Pope Benedict XVI, the International Theological Commission presented its study on the topic Memory and Reconciliation: The Church and the Faults of the Past. The purpose of this document is "not to examine particular historical cases but rather to clarify the presuppositions that ground repentance for past faults." It examines repentance for past faults in the context of sociology, ecclesiology and theology.

The Great Jubilee of the year 2000 included a day of Prayer for Forgiveness of the Sins of the Church on March 12, 2000.

The Catholic Church in Canada (as well as the Anglican Church in Canada) have regretted and apologized for their role in the native residential school system in Canada.

The Churches Apologize

The Canadian Catholic Church did not have a collective role in the residential schools; decisions were often made by individual dioceses and orders. It also did not make a collective apology for the role the various dioceses played in the. Pope Benedict XVI metleaders in 2009 and expressed his sorrow for the experiences of the residential school survivors. Many critics argue that this was not a full apology. Individual bishops did apologize, following the example of the Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate. This order, in charge of the largest number of the residential schools, offered this apology in 1991:

Next year, 1992, marks the five hundredth anniversary of the arrival of Europeans on the shores of America. As large scale celebrations are being prepared to mark this occasion, the Oblates of Canada wish, through this apology, to show solidarity with many Native people in Canada whose history has been adversely affected by this event. . . As well, recent criticisms of Indian residential schools and the exposure of instances of physical and sexual abuse within these schools call for such an apology. . . . We apologize for the part we played in the cultural, ethnic, linguistic, and religious imperialism that was part of the mentality with which the Peoples of Europe first met the aboriginal peoples and which consistently has lurked behind the way the Native peoples of Canada have been treated by civil governments and by the churches. We were, naively, part of this mentality and were, in fact, often a key player in its implementation. We recognize that this mentality has, from the beginning, and ever since, continually threatened the cultural, linguistic, and religious traditions of the Native peoples.

We recognize that many of the problems that beset Native communities today—high unemployment, alcoholism, family breakdown, domestic violence, spiraling suicide rates, lack of healthy self-esteem—are not so much the result of personal failure as they are the result of centuries of systemic imperialism. Any people stripped of its traditions as well as of its pride falls victim to precisely these social ills. For the part that we played, however inadvertent and naive that participation might have been, in the setting up and maintaining of a system that stripped others of not only their lands but also of their cultural, linguistic, and religious traditions we sincerely apologize. . . .

In sympathy with recent criticisms of Native Residential Schools, we wish to apologize for the part we played in the setting up and the maintaining of those schools. We apologize for the existence of the schools themselves, recognizing that the biggest abuse was not what happened in the schools, but that the schools themselves happened . . . that the primal bond inherent within families was violated as a matter of policy, that children were usurped from their natural communities, and that, implicitly and explicitly, these schools operated out of the premise that European languages, traditions, and religious practices were superior to native languages, traditions, and religious practices. The residential schools were an attempt to assimilate aboriginal peoples and we played an important role in the unfolding of this design. For this we sincerely apologize.

We wish to apologize in a very particular way for the instances of physical and sexual abuse that occurred in those schools. . . . Finally, we wish to apologize as well for our past dismissal of many of the riches of native religious tradition. We broke some of your peace pipes and we considered some of your sacred practices as pagan and superstitious. This too had its origins in the colonial mentality, our European superiority complex, which was grounded in a particular view of history. We apologize for this blindness and disrespect. . . .

. . . Sincerity alone does not set people above their place in history. Thousands of persons operated out of this mentality and gave their lives in dedication to an ideal that, while sincere in its intent, was, at one point, naively linked to a certain cultural, religious, linguistic, and ethnic superiority complex. These men and women sincerely believed that their vocations and actions were serving both God and the best interests of the Native Peoples to whom they were ministering. History has, partially, rendered a cruel judgment on their efforts. . . .

Recognizing that within every sincere apology there is implicit the promise of conversion to a new way of acting. We, the Oblates of Canada, wish to pledge ourselves to a renewed relationship with Native Peoples which, while very much in line with the sincerity and intent of our past relationship, seeks to move beyond past mistakes to a new level of respect and mutuality …

Reverend Doug Crosby OMI President of the Oblate Conference of Canada On behalf of the 1200 Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate living and ministering in Canada

I am hoping that this in some small way meets the parameters of your question.


It is your further comment that prompts me to offer an answer, when you said,

“I am not imagining a new, denominational structure. I am seeing one Ministry, sent of Jesus Christ, by which is raised up one Church. As it was in the beginning of the gospel. As we see in the Acts of the Apostles. As we see of Paul, who went to a city and there was one body, gathered in unity subject to the apostolic word. And to that - single - body he went and preached. And they received his word, as from Christ himself.”

It is your use of the word ‘denominations’ that might be preventing you seeing the wood for the trees.

That one body, the Church (ekklesian) that Christ builds, and which the gates of hades will never prevail against (Matthew 16:18) has remained throughout the centuries. There were no other bodies claiming to be that Church at that time, no denominations. In that regard, it was easy to identify the Church, even though false teachers, wolves in sheep’s clothing, crept in to draw people away after themselves even before all the apostles had died (Acts 20:29-30). Yet despite how quickly divisions arose and despite thousands of denominations today all claiming to be part of “the Church”, that one body, that one Church remains, and it has grown phenomenally. But the Church cannot be identified as being any one denomination, or any group of denominations. It is comprised of every single born-again believer in the risen Christ from the time of Christ till today. There is no denomination that is 100% made-up of such Christians.

In some groups, there may be only a tiny percentage of genuine Christians who make the same confession Peter did in Matthew 16:17. Yet you could have sweet fellowship with such saints even if most of the others in their denomination (or group) were failing to properly represent Christ. As long as the teaching and preaching stuck faithfully to the biblical gospel of Christ, proclaiming him the way the Bible does, they would not be anathema. But some groups have, indeed become accursed of God because they listened to ‘another gospel’ (which is no gospel at all). Even when some claim that an angel told them the gospel they promote, if it is not the gospel of Christ, they are anathema (Galatians 1:6-9).

For example, there were several small groups that formed in the 19th century, sincerely wanting to return to genuine 1st century Christianity but they began to drift away from the gospel of Christ by going overboard on end-time interpretations. They began to condemn wicked “Christendom” but insisted that the only way to deal with that was to leave every denomination and “come out of her my people” as per Revelation 18:4, and join their group. They formed new denominations. This is a regular pattern with teachers who gather a following, usually in objection to the failure of “Christendom”. They may start by berating themselves but it usually isn’t long before they view themselves as “more holy than thou” (Isa. 65:5). That is why it’s a mistake to think in terms of denominations.

It was a marvellous release for me to come to saving faith in Christ alone and to then swiftly find a little local congregation that taught the biblical gospel, and the biblical Christ. The minister made the point that not all people in their congregation were yet Christians, and that being a Christian had nothing to do with denomination. Members of Christ’s Church were to be found all over the place (though perhaps less so, proportionately, in sacerdotal institutions, but I won’t go into that here.)

That same minister gave me a book that has been, for me, an inspirational history of how different groups formed over the centuries, desirous of maintaining the purity of belief and practice of the 1st century Church, even though that brought often hideous persecution by “Christendom”. They were known by different names, and often accused of heresy, though their persecutors made a point of destroying as much evidence about them as they could, so we only have their word for that. Some groups possibly were heretical, but by no means all of them, given the purity of their lives and faithfulness to Christ, even to death. I recommend this book to you: The Pilgrim Church by E.H. Broadbent, Pickering Classics (first published in 1931).

To answer your question, Yes, all denominations that preach the biblical gospel of Christ and teach the biblical Christ accept their own part in the failure, generally, of Christendom, to rise to the reality of what Christianity ought to be, but that never guarantees that they – as a denomination – will remain humble, repentant, and ever-reforming. Individuals within such denominations will, but only the Holy Spirit can direct individuals to other individuals who He would have them fellowship with.

  • Appreciated and up-voted (+1).
    – Nigel J
    Commented Jul 4, 2021 at 13:56

The Seventh-day Adventist church does feel the same way in that it applies the description of the Church of Loadicea to itself, what is commonly referred to as 'The Lukewarm Church'.

I know your works, that you are neither cold nor hot. I could wish you were cold or hot. So then, because you are lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will vomit you out of My mouth. Because you say, 'I am rich, have become wealthy, and have need of nothing' - and do not know that you are wretched, miserable, poor, blind, and naked - I counsel you to buy from Me gold refined in the fire, that you may be rich; and white garments, that you may be clothed, that the shame of your nakedness may not be revealed; and anoint your eyes with eye salve, that you may see. As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten. Therefore be zealous and repent.

Personally, I share your knowledge of past failings, missed opportunities, a lukewarm approach to my personal salvation, in that I am well described by those verses. I know that I too, need white garments to cover my nakedness - or white robes washed in the blood of the Lamb (Cf. Rev 7:14, Rev 22:14) - which is both justification and sanctification. Without this I am not ready for the return of Christ. Without this I am the seed that fell on the rocky soil, which sprang up but not finding root, withers and dies. I am the virgin who failed to carry spare oil (the Holy Spirit) in sufficient quantities to see me through the midnight cry and the approach of the bridegroom. When we see Jesus on the horizon is not the time to seek a deep and meaningful relationship with Him.

This belief still persists despite the now rapid growth of the SDA Church (now according to an article in the religious section of USA Today, the fastest growing North American church at 2.5% while other churches are in decline, and even the Mormons who prioritize numeric growth are at 1.4%) USA today, Adventist Record

Some reference material to the Laodicean message and Adventism The Laodicea Message and Adventist History, Ministry Magazine, Adventist Review.

As to meeting with others who feel the same way, there are many Adventist churches in the UK and if you arrive at 9:30am any Sabbath morning they will be studying this quarters lesson, entitled "Rest in Christ". Sabbath School, the major morning part of our service, is the open discussion part of the service where we study, talk and learn together. All are welcome.

I will include here the preface to this quarters lesson, because I believe it talks directly to our fears and our concerns as sin-sick, weary worn-out and struggling human beings.

This Sabbath (3rd June 2021) is the start of the new quarter and we will be doing Lesson 1, an ideal time to join in :-)

Rest for the Restless

The flight had been uneventful until the moment the captain announced from the flight deck that the plane would have to cross a major storm. “Please tighten your seat belts. We will be in for quite a ride,” the voice from the cockpit said in ending the announcement.

Soon after, the plane began to shake violently as it fought its way through the storm. Overhead bins opened; people sat tense in their seats. After a particularly violent shudder of the plane, someone shrieked in the back of the plane. Images of a wing breaking off and the plane careening to the earth flashed through a few minds. All passengers looked tense and fearful. All, except a little girl seated in the front row of economy. She was busy drawing a picture on the open tray table before her. Now and again she would look out the small window at a particularly impressive lightning strike, but then she would calmly resume her drawing.

After what seemed half an eternity, the plane finally landed at its destination. Passengers cheered and clapped, so grateful and relieved to be back on the ground. The little girl had packed her bag and was waiting for people to leave the plane when one of the travelers asked her if she hadn’t been afraid. How could she be that calm during such a major storm and with the plane shaking so much?

“I wasn’t scared,” the little girl said to the surprised man. “My dad is the pilot, and I knew he was taking me home.”

Restlessness and fear often go hand in hand. Living in a world that keeps most people busy 24/7 can result in restlessness and fear in our lives. Who doesn’t, at times, struggle with fear, with worry, with dread of what the future holds? The past is done, the present is now, but the future is full of questions, and in this unstable world the answers might not be what we want to hear. We wonder if we will be able to make a looming deadline, to cover the next rent or school payment, to make our struggling marriages survive another storm. We wonder if God can continue to love us, even though we “disappoint” Him again and again.

In this quarter, we will tackle some of those fears head on. Rest in Christ is not just a title for a study guide or a captivating logo of an evangelistic campaign or camp meeting. Resting in Christ is the key to the promise of the type of life that Jesus promises to His followers: “The thief does not come except to steal, and to kill, and to destroy. I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly” (John 10:10, NKJV).

As the authors worked on this study guide, they suddenly realized the all-pervasiveness of the concept of rest in the texture of biblical theology. Rest connects to salvation, to grace, to creation, to the Sabbath, to our understanding of the state of the dead, to the soon coming of Jesus — and to so much more.

When Jesus invited us to come and find rest in Him (Matt. 11:28), He addressed not only His disciples or the early Christian church. He saw future generations of sin-sick, weary, worn-out, struggling human beings who needed access to the source of rest. As you study the weekly lessons during this quarter, remember to come, and rest in Him. After all, our heavenly Father is in control and is ready to bring us home safely. SSNet.org

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    Thank you. Personally, I would need a re-clarification of the Adventist position on the Trinity before being able to meet together in fellowship. See St Andrews University Overview and see Adventist Record
    – Nigel J
    Commented Jul 2, 2021 at 12:07
  • adventist.org/trinity outlines the full belief. There are some (fringe) that hold that the Trinity doctrine is false. Personally I've only ever met two Adventist persons that I know of, one about 30 years ago in Durban RSA, another about 2 years ago, in Townsville AU, that didn't follow the Trinity doctrine. I'm 60, have been an Adventist all my life (with ups and downs in my youth). Your mileage may vary. Generally I can't even recall it being discussed except as outlined in the link, but as with any significant religion with millions of adherents, you'll always have outliers. Commented Jul 2, 2021 at 14:07
  • adventist.org/beliefs lists the so called 28 fundamental beliefs of SDA's. It boils down to one thing really though, we follow the Bible, the whole Bible and nothing but the Bible. If the Bible teaches it, we consider it binding. Cf. 2 Tim 3:16 - but keep in mind that 2 Timothy was, when written, referring to the Old Testament, freqently forgotten by what the world generally calls New Coventant Christians. IE, they don't follow the 10 commandments, or they do but don't admit it for fear of being legalistic or consider it the 10 or the 9 suggestions etc. Commented Jul 2, 2021 at 14:13
  • Relevant: xkcd.com/1102
    – Mason Wheeler
    Commented Jul 2, 2021 at 15:27
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    It might be worth pointing out here that the Seventh Day Adventists have also often been accused of being a cult that follows unbiblical doctrines, and people may find one or both aspects of that problematic.
    – nick012000
    Commented Jul 2, 2021 at 19:17

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